Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, is said to be based on several chapters of the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns-Goodwin, who was a consultant to Spielberg. The main theme of the movie is how clever, manipulative, conniving, scheming, lying, and underhanded Lincoln supposedly was in using his “political skills” to get the Thirteenth Amendment that legally ended slavery through the U.S. House of Representatives in the last months of his life.
This entire story is what Lerone Bennett, Jr. the longtime executive editor of Ebony magazine and author of Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, calls a “pleasant fiction.” It never happened.
It never happened according to the foremost authority on Lincoln among mainstream Lincoln scholars, Harvard University Professor David H. Donald, the recipient of several Pulitzer prizes for his historical writings, including a biography of Lincoln. David Donald is the preeminent Lincoln scholar of our time who began writing award-winning books on the subject in the early 1960s. On page 545 of his magnus opus, Lincoln, Donald notes that Lincoln did discuss the Thirteenth Amendment with two members of Congress – James M. Ashley of Ohio and James S. Rollins of Missouri. But if he used “means of persuading congressmen to vote for the Thirteeth Amendment,” the theme of the Spielberg movie, “his actions are not recorded. Conclusions about the President’s role rested on gossip . . .”
Moreover, there is not a shred of evidence that even one Democratic member of Congress changed his vote on the Thirteenth Amendment (which had previously been defeated) because of Lincoln’s actions. Donald documents that Lincoln was told that some New Jersey Democrats could possibly be persuaded to vote for the amendment “if he could persuade [Senator] Charles Sumner to drop a bill to regulate the Camden & Amboy [New Jersey] Railroad, but he declined to intervene” (emphasis added). “One New Jersey Democrat,” writes David Donald, “well known as a lobbyist for the Camden & Amboy, who had voted against the amendment in July, did abstain in the final vote, but it cannot be proved that Lincoln influenced his change” (emphasis added). Thus, according to the foremost authority on Lincoln, there is no evidence at all that Lincoln influenced even a single vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, in complete contradiction of the writings of the confessed plagiarist Doris Kearns-Goodwin and Steven Spielberg’s movie (See my review of Goodwin’s book, entitled “A Plagiarist’s Contribution to Lincoln Idolatry”).
Lincoln’s First Thirteenth Amendment Gambit
There is no evidence that Lincoln provided any significant assistance in the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in the House of Representatives in 1865, but there is evidence of his effectiveness in getting an earlier Thirteenth Amendment through the House and the Senate in 1861. This proposed amendment was known as the “Corwin Amendment,” named after Ohio Republican Congressman Thomas Corwin. It had passed both the Republican-controlled House and the Republican-dominated U.S. Senate on March 2, 1861, two days before Lincoln’s inauguration, and was sent to the states for ratification by Lincoln himself.
The Corwin Amendment would have………….